How lonely are you? Is it me or everyone else?

“We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness.”

Albert Schweitzer

I have been thinking of loneliness recently and I found myself going round and round in circles in a Chicken or Egg fashion. Does depression cause loneliness or does loneliness cause depression? Can you be lonely and not depressed? The answer that I came to was it doesn't matter. The important thing to recognise is that loneliness is a real problem and another weight tied to your Sponge Bob shaped helium filled happiness balloon.

How can loneliness be a problem? We have never had such a range of ways to stay in contact with each other, video calls, mobile phones with reception everywhere and a plethora of social media platforms. If you have an interest in a niche topic there will be a group on Facebook that discusses that topic in all its wonder and minute detail. The solution would seem simple if you are lonely go and meet people, hang out with others, either on-line or in person. There are apps devoted to meeting people all from the comfort of your armchair or office cubicle. However loneliness doesn't exist in isolation within the mind. Ironically loneliness has company and can be tied up with lots of other conditions, self-esteem issues, and negative thinking. For some people being alone is a sign that they are on the right track and forging ahead and do not want or need interaction with others. For the majority of us however positive social interaction is a basic human need that keeps us mentally healthy and happy.

The average working week for an office dweller (like me) is around 8 hours a day. Although you are surrounded by people in the office it is probable with no meaningful or emotional or insightful communication you will begin to feel lonely. A study from California state university in 2011 states that, loneliness had a:

“Significant influence on employee work performance, both in direct tasks, as well as employee team member and team role effectiveness rated by both the employee’s work unit members and supervisor”.

Hakan Ozcelik and Sigal Barsade Work loneliness and employee performance 2011.

There it is, a scientific study stating what has been obvious to anyone considering the topic for a minute. A person’s state of mind had a direct relationship with how they perform. If someone is lonely they will be less productive, and give less of themselves to the role they are in. Lonely people will also give less discretionary effort*. Loneliness is bad for business and bad for people.

So what?

If you feel lonely what is the next step? How do you feel confident enough to make find friends and feel included. I suggest that the normal advice of “just get out there” “go and meet people “is pretty useless. A better approach is to nurture relationships that have two attributes:

1. Knowledge (of them and you)

2. Care (about them and you)

This is a collaborative process, you want to know and care for others and have others know and care for you. My suggestion is that to get closer to the goal of feeling connected to others do something new. Loneliness and its friends depression, anxiety and anger often conspire in order to keep us safe and to stop us from changing our routines and patterns of behaviour. Mind — loneliness is an excellent starting point for advice. To break the cycle of negativity and to quiet the inner nay saying voice seek advice and guidance from a therapist. Go to the Mind — loneliness webpage it’s an excellent starting point for advice.

*the effort that takes a contribution to a task beyond bare minimum.